It was the debate pundits thought did not do much to move people one way or the other. Gov. Romney wanted to appear presidential. And he did. But he missed the most obvious opportunity to give the knockout punch to a struggling opponent. That mistake would cost him the election.
President Obama got the chance to reemerge with the help of an unusual corner man. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s praising of President Obama’s handling of the aftermath of super-storm Sandy finally showed the country that Obama “still had it.” He was back, and so close to the election, there was nothing Gov. Romney could do.
If you remember, the Benghazi debacle reached a tipping point when the President was so beat up by the issue he had to be assisted by CNN’s Candy Crowley. She misrepresented the facts, making Gov. Romney looked like he was the one lying when the opposite was true.
But no worries. That was just the second debate, and the last debate was precisely on foreign policy. Gov. Romney could not have dreamed of a better scenario. Everyone was sure he would come out swinging on the issue. News coverage focused on it for days. Obama surrogates started to fight (and lie) on every news channel. And finally the moment arrived; the third presidential debate.
And what do you know, the first question out is on Benghazi! Gov. Romney even gets to go first! Yet he barely mentions the incident.
I was flabbergasted! In analyzing the debate I said, “He pulled back a bit too much for my taste.” I was putting it very mildly. I wrote:
There were many missed opportunities, not the least of which was on the first topic of the night, Libya. The American people deserve better than what we have gotten from President Obama and his administration on Benghazi, yet Gov. Romney largely moved away from that.
It was a big letdown. Americans wanted someone to fight for them and demand answers. That would have forced the media’s hand to do its due diligence on the issue. But Romney let the president off the hook, and the president made him pay the prize.
The question is why? Why would Romney give the president a pass on such a low hanging fruit? Here is my take. I believe his stellar performance on the first presidential debate gave him a false sense of security. The Romney camp believed all they had to do was to look presidential and not make a mistake.
But that will turn out to be their big mistake.
The Christie thing was definitely a sucker punch. They could never have projected such a blow from someone who performed so well at the Republican National Convention. But if the governor had delivered that fatal Benghazi punch back on the third debate, he would have had some framework from which to contrast the president’s seemingly “positive” performance in the aftermath of Sandy.
With no framework though, the President’s resurgence picture stayed intact for days, and Romney’s presidential aura disintegrated. He was barely in the news for a while.
The final mirage distorting Gov. Romney’s views and pushing him to give the president a pass on Benghazi was the fact that this election was supposed to be about the economy, right? And he had won that argument.
Well, not quite. Once Gov. Romney dissipated President Obama’s idea that Romney was too radical for the White House on that first presidential debate, the president’s camp switch strategy to and commenced to just paint Romney as untrustworthy. “The things the governor is saying are just not true,” Obama repeated this over and over on the campaign trail.
It worked. In the end, some Americans were not really sure about Romney and went with what they knew already. Things could have been different if they would have been told they were lied to on Benghazi.